Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Flying Lesson #12: A New Beginning

Now that I have my student pilot license, I was able to officially enroll in the school's flight training program. The flight training curriculum has a total of 27 units, nine of which are in the pre-solo stage. Today we did units 1 and 2 of the curriculum, which were easy due of the experience I've had up until now. I had an extra-long lesson today, because the instructor's morning lesson was cancelled and he called to ask whether I wanted to show up early.

I almost made two good radio calls today. In the first, I said "nine" instead of "niner", but was otherwise good. On the second, I correctly made a call and then read back the controller's somewhat complex taxi instruction. I was feeling proud of myself, but then noticed my instructor was repeating what I had said. I wondered why for a couple of seconds, then realized that I hadn't pressed the push-to-talk button when I performed my miraculous call. The instructor got a good laugh: "Man, you nailed it, but nobody heard it."

The first part of the lesson was going over the things that I was supposed to learn in flight training units 1 and 2, so I had to demonstrate straight-and-level flight, climbs, descents, medium-bank turns, and other basic maneuvers so that the instructor could grade me. With those out of the way, we practiced flight at minimum controllable airspeed and some stalls. My slow flight still needs work; my reactions are right, but too slow and not aggressive enough to maintain the altitude.

We practiced the engine-out procedure. The instructor cut the throttle, and then let me take things from there, as I assured him I'd memorized the procedure. I established the best-glide speed (which took longer than it should have), then started looking for places to land. We were in an area that had some open fields, so I picked one and started heading for it. Then I started described the things I would do to try to restart the engine and to communicate the situation. Here my memory faltered. I need to study the procedures more.

Then we headed back to the airport for some pattern work. My first landing, with no flaps, went pretty well. This was my first no-flap landing, and I thought it was a lot easier to control the plane at the higher speed. My next landing was the proverbial "greaser:" smooth, straight, soft, and right down the centerline. I thought I'd finally figured this landing thing out, but then my next four landings were all terrible. The pattern and the tower frequency were getting busy, so the instructor decided to cut things off early and called for a full-stop landing. Of course, by the time we landed, the pattern and frequency were clear again.

After the flight, for the first time I got grades on aspects of the flight. The instructor had to reluctantly give me a failing grade for Communications, due to the no-transmit faux pas, but I passed everything else.

For today: 2.2 hours dual in N9103M, including 6 takeoffs and 6 landings. Cost: $380.51.

My next lesson is scheduled for Friday. I've got a double-sized block scheduled, because the instructor's morning student cancelled that one too. The instructor wants us to fly somewhere, take a lunch break, and fly back, hoping to take care of another two or three flight units. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Friday isn't looking good, so it may end up just being a ground lesson.

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